Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What do YOU mean by "employment as an anthropologist?"

What do YOU mean by "employment as an anthropologist?" This is an important question that we are discussing in the Career Anthropologist group in LinkedIn.

Before you commit your time and resources to pursuing additional training at the MA or PhD level,and definitely before you go rushing off with your newly minted MA or PhD, ask yourself this question, "What do YOU mean by being employed as an anthropologist?"

So many students trained in anthropology, especially at the graduate level, assume or desire that to be an anthropologist, is to be labelled by others as an anthropologists. The reality, however, when they enter the job market is often quite different.

If you want to be recognized and labelled as an "anthropologist", then the only place to look is the university, the museum, and some government jobs where there is an official job title and description for an anthropologist. If you want a career as an "anthropologist." This is route you will have to travel.

Others, I include myself in this, are trained in anthropology and have adopted a self definition as an anthropologist which is independent of any job description or need to be recognized by coworkers, clients, or employers as "an anthropologist." For us, to be an anthropologist is a way of looking and responding to world that is based on the "anthropological ethos" or to borrow from C Wright Miles, "The anthropological imagination."

Many non-traditional, career anthropologists have found the business sector to be both interesting and promising. This is where the opportunity is for someone trained as an anthropologist has real potential. However, it will require additional training (formal or self study) in the language and culture of business. The most important is some basic accounting and finance language and skills. This is really learning the culture of those with whom you will be working.

One needs to be aware of the status structure in the industry one enters. In the business world, the MBA and similar Masters level degrees are considered to be the professional degree. In the more technical staff positions, a PhD may be required in order to have the appropriate status within the organization. For example, to become the CEO of a company a BA and/or MA degree,the right experience and connection are what count. But to be head of the Research Department, a PhD may be an absolute requirement.

As for the jobs side of it, it depends on what your "anthropological" interests are which can help you to establish your "expertise. This includes your interests and experience in the particular cultures and societies. What might be called your area studies. Another skill set is your linguistic skills. These can be another selling point. Also the specific problem area you find most interesting and where you can demonstrate your competency.

Some examples of job areas are: Marketing which draws upon cross cultural communication skills; Management which draws draws upon people and organizational skills; Staff positions which draw upon technical skills such as applied research, teaching (training), etc.; or Consulting which draws upon training, teaching, mentoring skills in a specific domain of human activity where you can claim expertise.

So the questions are: Do you want to be defined by others as an anthropologist, or do you define yourself as an anthropologist? Who do you want to impress? Where do you think you can make the greatest contribution to anthropology? And, Do you want to show the world why anthropology has made you are the best person for the job you want to do?

It is in your hands and up to you to decide! Good luck!

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